Premier League clubs return to playing one game this week – except for the six clubs that played in European competition this week. After last week’s double-league action, we have a new club at the top of our weekly Power Rankings, though I don’t expect the former number one to stay down for long.
As always, the number in parenthesis before each club reflects their spot on our Power Rankings, and we’ll try to keep this list updated as the week progresses. Home teams are listed first, and winners will be indicated in bold. In the event of a draw, both teams will be placed in italics.
Saturday, 15 December 2018
12:30pm GMT/7:30am EST
(5) Manchester City 3-1 (8) Everton (PREVIEW)
3:00pm GMT/10:00am EST
(17) Crystal Palace 1-0 (7) Leicester City
(18) Huddersfield Town 0-1 (16) Newcastle United **MATCH OF THE WEAK**
(3) Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 (15) Burnley
(13) Watford 3-2 (14) Cardiff City
(10) Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 (11) AFC Bournemouth
5:30pm GMT/12:30pm EST
(20) Fulham 0-2 (9) West Ham United
Sunday, 16 December 2018
Match(es) of the Week
If I had to pick to matches to focus on, it would be the ones that bookend the weekend.
The second-best match of the week kicks things off early on Saturday, with former #1 and defending league champion Manchester City hosting Everton. As stated above, I don’t expect City to stay down in our Power Rankings for long, and they are only a point behind new #1 Liverpool at the top of the league table. They struggled a bit early in their Wednesday Champions League match against Hoffenheim, but they really had no incentive to win – which they eventually did anyway.
Everton, on the other hand, has spent much of the season just out of the top 6, and are currently only two points behind Manchester United for sixth place. Depending on how the association trophies play out, a seventh place finish could be enough to reach European competition next year (Burnley played in Europa League this season as the 7th place finisher last year), so the Toffees hope to continue their strong play through the end of the season.
Anfield Plays Host
But the best match of the week features two Big Six clubs, with Liverpool welcoming Manchester United to Anfield to close out action this weekend. Liverpool is the lone club remaining without a loss on the season, while Manchester United finally seems to have rounded into form – this week’s Champions League result notwithstanding.
Liverpool hopes to keep their unbeaten streak alive, especially with Manchester City nipping at their heels on the league table. A draw may not be enough to keep them in 1st – I fully expect City to defeat Everton – so Liverpool will be playing for the win. Manchester United, on the other hand, needs to pick up three points as well, even if it wouldn’t be enough to catch Arsenal in 5th place. United can’t be expected to compete for a top four spot, let alone the league title, if they can’t garner all three points in matches like this when both clubs will be playing on tired legs (four matches in 12 days). If Liverpool wins easily, however, it might prove that United just isn’t in top form this season.
A Battle to Avoid the Bottom
In what I’ve dubbed the “Match of the Weak” – something I started doing over in the Championship last week – we find the two clubs that have the highest combined rankings from our weekly Power Rankings. This week the dubious honor falls to Huddersfield Town hosting Newcastle United.
To say these two have struggled on the season would be an understatement. In 32 combined matches, they’ve managed to score only 23 goals – the Terriers are the lowest-scoring club in the league this season with 10 goals, while surrendering 49 combined goals. They have a combined record of 5-8-19, which would only give them enough combined points to climb to 8th in the league.
Newcastle is only three matches removed from a three-match winning streak – against Watford, Bournemouth, and Burnley – while Huddersfield is the same three matches removed from their own 2-1-0 unbeaten run – against Fulham, West Ham United (draw), and Wolverhampton Wanderers – so something will probably have to give. I’d give the edge to the Terriers due to the playing at home, but… they have about as much success at home as Newcastle has on the road. I think a 0-0 draw is just as likely as a 2+ goal win for either club, but only true diehards of either club will be watching when it kicks off Saturday afternoon.
Until next time…
Last Update: 16 December 2018, 1:30pm EST